Indiana judge won’t block investigation into 10-year-old’s abortion

Indiana’s Republican attorney general can continue to investigate an Indianapolis doctor who spoke publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from neighboring Ohio, a judge ruled Friday.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch rejected an attempt by Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office to block the investigation. She also ruled Friday in a separate lawsuit that Indiana’s abortion ban adopted in August violates the state’s religious freedom law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2015. Indiana’s abortion ban, however, is stopped Since mid-September the courts consider a challenge from abortion clinic operators who argue the ban violates the state constitution.

Judge’s decision on investigation Dr Caitlin Bernard Two days later, the Attorney General’s office asked the state Medical Licensing Board to discipline Bernard, alleging that he violated state law by not reporting the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities, and by firing a newspaper reporter. Broke patient confidentiality laws by disclosing details of girl’s treatment.

That account sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, with some news outlets and Republican politicians suggesting Bernard fabricated the story. The girl was unable to get an abortion in Ohio after more restrictive abortion laws were enacted.

Bernard filed suit Against the state attorney general last month, argued that Rokita’s office was wrongly justifying the investigation with “frivolous” consumer complaints submitted by people who had no personal knowledge of the girl’s treatment. Bernard and her attorneys say the abuse of the girl was reported to Ohio police before the doctor even saw the child.

But the judge turned down Bernard’s request for an injunction to stop the investigation. Welch ruled that the Medical Licensing Board now has jurisdiction over the case after the attorney general filed a complaint on Wednesday. That complaint asked the state medical licensing board to impose “appropriate disciplinary action” without specifying the proposed fine. The board, which has the authority to suspend, revoke or place a doctor’s license on probation, said on Friday that it had received the complaint but had not set a date for a hearing.

However, Welch finds that Rokita falsely made public comments about Bernard’s investigation prior to filing the complaint. Welch wrote that Rokita’s statements were “clearly illegal violations of the licensing investigation statute’s requirement that employees of the Attorney General’s office maintain confidentiality on pending investigations unless they are referred for prosecution.”

Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen Delaney, criticized Rokita for violating her “duty of confidentiality” and pushing the matter to the medical board, thus “taking it out of Judge Welch’s hands.”

“We are confident of the record and testimony we have already developed and look forward to presenting Dr. Bernard’s evidence before the Medical Licensing Board,” Delaney said.

The attorney general’s office said the ruling supports the protection of patient privacy rights.

“The doctors and their lawyers started this media frenzy from the beginning, and it continues to draw attention to this innocent little girl who is trying to deal with a horrific trauma,” the office said in a statement. ” Rokita’s public comments on the matter.

Bernard provided abortion drugs to the girl in Indianapolis in late June after she said doctors determined the girl was unable to have an abortion in neighboring Ohio. That’s because Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law went into effect with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end women’s constitutional protections for abortion. Such laws prohibit abortion from the time when cardiac activity can be detected in the fetus, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Rokita continues to investigate even after a 27-year-old man in Columbus, Ohio, was accused of raping the girl, and public records obtained by The Associated Press show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for abortions. did. Girl under 16 years of age.

In Welch’s decision on the state’s abortion ban, the judge sided with five residents — who are Jewish, Muslim and of spiritual faith — who argued that the ban would violate their religious rights if abortion were acceptable.

Welch wrote, “The undisputed evidence establishes that plaintiffs do not share the State’s belief that life begins at fertilization or that abortion is the intentional taking of human life.” “On the contrary, they have different religious beliefs about when life begins. … Under the law, the Court found that these are sincere religious beliefs.”

Rokita’s office, which is defending the abortion ban in court, did not immediately comment on the religious freedom lawsuit’s ruling.

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